Rain, Mixed With Gusts of Fun


Listen, do you want to know a secret?

Mark Lewis, founder/manager/original keyboard player of Rain, the rock group that beats the Beatles tunes as their own, was "just trying to make a buck" when he came up with the ultimate cover band concept.

Trying to cover his backside financially, he figured on getting a group together on an off night at a bar in the San Fernando Valley in California way back in the early '70s.

But — all the lonely people. Where did they all come from?

They showed up for the off-night jam and have been buttering Lewis' side of the bread ever since.

Including Philly: Rain has returned to the Academy of Music (www.kimmelcenter.org/broadway), playing here through Feb. 5.

"When we started out, it was the heart of the disco era and there was no such thing as a tribute band," Lewis recalls of the '70s sets he performed.

It's since been a tribute to his own perseverance to put the faux four on stage and watch the mania go mainstream.

"But it's not like someone says he wants to do Beatles for the rest of his life," laughs Lewis, who, as a teen in his native Los Angeles, was a band bopster, playing with area groups.

But sometimes long and winding roads go straight to the bank. And speaking of shrewd money moves, Lewis banked on his own Bar Mitzvah to set him on the path to riches.

"I took all the money I got from my Bar Mitzvah and put it toward my first portable organ," he recalls of that purchase 47 years ago.

And he even took the Beatles to the bimah: "I was dressed in a collarless suit just like them," he says of his rite of passage attire.

He's hasn't tired of them since — even with nonstop tours, a Broadway show and major Sergeant Pepper parties planned by the group's fans when they come into town.

Baby, you're a rich man? Certainly, his work of the past four decades hasn't hurt. But it's more than that, he avows; it is the love of a group that has made the whole world wax lyrical over their work these many years since that fateful debut of the Fab Four on The Ed Sullivan Show on Feb. 9, 1964.

"They made such great music in such a short period of time," says Lewis of the band that eventually dissolved amid acrimony and sharp arguments in 1970.

"And we all watched them grow musically; they were a perfect storm of music and the times."

The times, they are a'changing. But would music have changed as much without the Beatles? "Would music be where it is today if they had not come along when they did in the 1960s? I doubt it.

"But then where would music — and the Beatles — be without a Little Richard and a Chuck Berry, who influenced the band," says Lewis of the seminal black be-bop beat that filtered its way into the Beatles sound.

As he continues another decade getting Rain back to where they belong — on stage, on tour — does Lewis wonder about how long this can go on, if they'll still love him in a few years when he's 64?

"Well," he says of the fan following he has helped build, first as player and now as manager of Rain, "I hope they'll at least still like me!"


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